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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 4-7

Predatory publishing: What a researcher should know about

1 Department of Research, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Delhi, India
2 Department of Research, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Delhi, India; Department of Laboratory and Transfusion Services, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Delhi, India

Date of Submission02-Jun-2020
Date of Acceptance10-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication08-Jul-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Smreti Vasudevan
Department of Research, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Rohini, Delhi,
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jco.jco_15_20

Rights and Permissions

With the emergence of fast modes of communication such as Twitter, Blogs, Instagram, and others, the world is writing and sharing as never before. But what distinguishes an academic publication from all other write-ups is the credibility and future utility of the message conveyed. A stringent peer review mechanism is the guarantee to trustworthiness and usability of the publication for future scientific discourse and research. Circumventing or weakening the peer review process for ulterior considerations marks a predatory journal. These journals may end up circulating scientifically questionable information that may lead astray the scientific community. It is important that a researcher is not duped by predatory calls and he makes an informed decision for his submission. This article attempts to explain in a concise manner the key attributes and modus operandi of predatory journals, the consequence of predatory publishing, and the measures that can be adopted to curb such practices.

Keywords: Fake journals, markers of predatory journals, scholarly publishing awareness

How to cite this article:
Vasudevan S, Mehta A. Predatory publishing: What a researcher should know about. J Curr Oncol 2020;3:4-7

How to cite this URL:
Vasudevan S, Mehta A. Predatory publishing: What a researcher should know about. J Curr Oncol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 25];3:4-7. Available from: http://www.https://journalofcurrentoncology.org//text.asp?2020/3/1/4/289122

  Introduction Top

“Predatory publishers” is the term coined by academic librarian Jeffery Beall about a decade back, for the “publishers who publish counterfeit journals and exploit the open-access model with dishonest and opaque practices.”[1] Such journals since then have been given appellations such as predatory journals, fake journals, trash journals, and many others. Predatory journals indulge in diverse unscrupulous practices, and it is difficult to apply a unified definition for them, but one common thread that runs through them is their intent to deceive through sharp and dubious editorial practices.[2],[3] How has such a disingenuous practice evolved? Predatory publishing owes its origin to the open-access movement. Before that subscription-based publishing was in vogue. In the subscription model, the author’s copyright is transferred to the publisher, no publication fee is levied on the author, and the publisher covers the cost by charging subscription fee from readers/library. This model was essentially quality driven but limited the article visibility. In the year 2002, the Budapest Open Access Initiative made publishing open-ended by recommending free online availability of literature to scholars.[4] Open access is an author pay model, held by a creative commons license, whereby the author retains copyright, and readers can freely access the content and reproduce it by citing the original source. As the readers are not charged, it permits rapid dissemination of knowledge. However, the major deficiency of this model is that a publisher’s revenue is directly proportional to the number of articles it accepts.[5] This leads to the emergence and thriving of predatory publishers motivated to generate income by charging the authors without complying with publishing standards.

As the name suggests, predatory journals prey on authors to publish research [Figure 1]. These may dupe many honest researchers, who are unwary of the world of publication or may attend to the needs of ambitious researchers seeking a quick and easy way to get his work published. Several rounds of refusals by legitimate journals and ensuing negative feelings aroused by these rejections or prohibitive publication charges of the genuine and reputed open-access journals may prompt the author to unknowingly or knowingly submit his paper in a low hanging predatory journal.[6]
Figure 1: Predatory publishers lure the authors. APC = Article processing charge

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The global South is the major hub of predatory publishing.[7],[8] A study by Xia et al.[9] shows that many of these predatory publishers operate from India, and the authors who publish in such journals are inexperienced researchers mostly from the developing countries. High pressure to publish, greater regard to quantity over quality, lack of funding, and poor publication ethics are the reasons that are exploited by predatory publishers.[9],[10] In a study by Shen and Bjork,[7] it was observed that 34.7% of the predatory publishers are from India, 25.6% from Asian countries excluding India, and 16.4% from Africa.[8] Predatory publishing is a lucrative business and is growing rapidly with such journals mushrooming overnight. To avoid publishing their labor of love in dubious journals, it is important for a researcher to know the attributes and modus operandi of predatory journals.

  Recognizing Predatory Practices Top

The groundwork of defining and classifying predatory publishers and journals was prepared by Jeffery Beall, who based on a set of criteria classified the open-access publishers as potential, possible, or probable predatory.[11],[12] Other groups such as Shamseer et al.[13] and Cobey et al.[2] contributed further to characterize predatory journals. [Figure 2] shows features that mark a predatory journal.[2],[13],[14]
Figure 2: Certain criteria for identifying predatory journals[2],[13],[14]

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Key indicators of predatory journals are as follows:

  • Title of the journal is too broad and may begin with “Global,” “World,” “International”; or may use terms such as “American,” “British,” and “Canadian,” even though the journal may not be operating from these places. Or the title closely mimics some respected journal title.

  • The journal website looks unprofessional with frequent spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The website could be a replica copy of some well-known journal. The typeset and font are similar to a reputed journal. Journal website shows a fleet of journals, typically with a similar title.

  • Journal has no/small editorial board with less qualified members. The affiliation of the members is not verifiable. Or it displays duplicate editorial board of some other journal. Frequently such journals have dummy editors, who may not be aware that they are associated with the journal.

  • Glancing through articles can reveal a lack of proofreading with basic mistakes in the title or abstract of papers. The title and scope of an article may completely mismatch with results, discussion, and conclusions. The figures are usually distorted and of low resolution. Plagiarized contents are not weeded out.

  • Publication fee is not mentioned or is hard to locate.

  • Journal performs a quick purported peer review and rapid acceptance of the submission.

  • Journal has an unregulated flow of articles. The issue number may be missing.

  • The journal boasts of false indexing and fake impact factor. It may display many bogus logos on the website. Almost all such journals state that they are included in Google Scholar that in effect is a search engine for curated publications and is neither a citation nor an indexing database.

  • Journal lacks transparency and does not follow standard practices advocated by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), and Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). For an open-access journal, it may not conform to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).[15]

  • Journal claims to be open access but requires the transfer of copyrights.

  •   Modus Operandi of Predatory Journals to Lure Researchers Top

    Unsolicited e-mails enticing authors to submit their manuscript or to serve as a member of the editorial board could signal a predatory journal. These e-mails often refer to the previous publication(s), confer undue praise on the author, and end with an urgent call for papers for the upcoming journal issue. Often, a requirement of one or two articles to complete a volume, obliquely indicating that submitted publication will be fast-tracked is another way to allure the researchers to publish in a predatory journal. Once an article is submitted by the unsuspecting author, quick acceptance and demand for article processing charge is made, overriding a genuine peer review and manuscript editing process.

      Consequences of Predatory Publishing and How to Combat the Problem Top

    Research is a cumulative process and is built on previously researched work. In predatory journals with a compromised peer review system, there is a high likelihood that papers of low-scientific integrity get published. It can misinform readers and propagate wrong science. Moreover, many predatory journals are not indexed in bona fide databases, so the papers are not easily traceable and thereby some genuine and useful information could eventually be lost. Therefore, publishing in a predatory journal drains off useful data, efforts, and resources.[16]

    It is important to curtail predatory practices. This can be achieved both at the individual level and at the community level. At the individual level, the researchers should be made aware of the problem and trained to identify fake journals. As an initial start, inexperienced authors are advised to check the journal and publisher’s name against the archived Beall’s list before submitting a manuscript.[17] This list gives a certain degree of hint to the beginner; however, the list should not be used as a sole determining method. Cabell’s curated blacklist as well as whitelist is an active record, but its access requires a subscription.[18] Another recent list that can be referred to is the Kscien’s list that has been established by young researchers of Kscien organization. It maintains an updated list of predatory publishers, standalone journals, hijacked journals, misleading metrics, and predatory conferences.[19] A useful resource is “Think. Check. Submit.” developed by collective efforts of many scholarly organizations. It comprises a checklist that helps a researcher to self-assess whether the journal is legit enough to submit the research paper.[20] If the journal website mentions of indexing, then it is important to cross-check the inclusion of the journal in the mentioned databases. The US National Library of Medicine publishes online three main literature databases: MEDLINE, PubMed, and PubMed Central. Among them, MEDLINE is the oldest and most prestigious medical database, with stringent criteria for inclusion. PubMed is the broadest database and includes mostly abstract of articles, citations to books, and so on. PubMed Central archives open access full-text journal literature.[21] The author should search the journal’s claim of inclusion in these databases via national library of medicine (NLM) Gateway or Entrez-PubMed. For an open-access journal, the inclusion in DOAJ can be checked at the DOAJ website.[22] The only authentic impact factor is the Journal Citation Report (JCR) Impact Factor that is published every year by Thomson Reuters. The journal’s claim of the JCR impact factor can be verified by its International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) number in the JCR Masterlist.[23] Additionally, both DOAJ and the JCR Masterlist websites give useful details about the publisher, article processing charge, and the average turnaround time of articles in the journal. However, for those predatory journals that manage to slip into the whitelist, the assessment could be a difficult task. Consulting with a colleague and taking a second opinion about the journal is a good practice. Social networking is important where researchers should share their experiences of suspicious practices if they have encountered a predatory journal. Also, to prevent amplification of wrong science, it is important for authors to assure the integrity of the content as well as the journal before citing an article. Many legitimate journals instruct against referencing articles from predatory journals.

    Community level efforts should be undertaken by the research institutes and universities. Publishing in predatory journals must be discouraged. Institute libraries should paste the list of predatory journals on their notice board. Universities and academic institutes should include a discourse on genuine publishing. Mentors must constantly advise their protégé about ethical and qualitative publishing. Recognition and rewards should only be conferred for quality publications rather than big numbers. For instance, the best publication for the year reward in an institute shall only be given after evaluation by a committee of experts who can sift genuine from predatory publications.

    Journals making the peer review comments open may improve the transparency of the system. Better software and evaluation tools need to be developed to identify fake journals. Stricter norms should be enforced to counteract predatory publishing. Many predatory publishers infringe copyright laws, and it is a punishable offence. Recently, the US Federal Trade Commission has sued the Hyderabad-based OMICS Publishing Group to pay US$50.1 million for deceptive publication practices.[24]

      Conclusion Top

    Predatory publishers take advantage of the authors’ ignorance and vulnerabilities. A researcher should be aware of predatory practices and learn to recognize them. Predatory publishing has a detrimental effect on scholarly communication, and collective efforts are required to remove such practices. It is up to the researcher to publish their data in credible journals and further advance the knowledge or publish to perish the information in predatory journals.

    Financial support and sponsorship


    Conflicts of interest

    There are no conflicts of interest.

      References Top

    Beall J. Predatory publishers are corrupting open access. Nature 2012;489:179.  Back to cited text no. 1
    Cobey KD, Lalu MM, Skidmore B, Ahmadzai N, Grudniewicz A, Moher D. What is a predatory journal? A scoping review. F1000Res 2018;7:1001.  Back to cited text no. 2
    Grudniewicz A, Moher D, Cobey KD, Bryson GL, Cukier S, Allen K, et al. Predatory journals: No definition, no defence. Nature 2019;576:210-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
    Budapest Open Access Initiative. Available from: http://wwwbudapestopenaccessinitiativeorg/. [Last accessed on 2020 May 15].  Back to cited text no. 4
    Beall J. Medical publishing triage—Chronicling predatory open access publishers. Ann Med Surg (Lond) 2013;2:47-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
    Frandsen TF. Why do researchers decide to publish in questionable journals? A review of the literature. Learn Publ 2019;32:57-62.  Back to cited text no. 6
    Shen C, Björk BC. ‘Predatory’ open access: A longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Med 2015;13:230.  Back to cited text no. 7
    Berger M. Everything you ever wanted to know about predatory publishing but were afraid to ask. Proc ACRL Conference of American Library Association, Baltimore, USA, March 22–25, 2017. p. 206-17.  Back to cited text no. 8
    Xia J, Harmon JL, Connolly KG, Donnelly RM, Anderson MR, Howard HA. Who publishes in “predatory” journals? J Assoc Infor Sci Technol 2015;66:1406-17.  Back to cited text no. 9
    Patwardhan B. Ethical and scientific aspects of research publications. J Ayurveda Integr Med 2013;4:129-31.  Back to cited text no. 10
    [PUBMED]  [Full text]  
    Laine C, Winker MA. Identifying predatory or pseudo-journals. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2017;27:285-91.  Back to cited text no. 11
    Beall J. What I learned from predatory publishers. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2017;27:273-8.  Back to cited text no. 12
    Shamseer L, Moher D, Maduekwe O, Turner L, Barbour V, Burch R, et al. Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: Can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Med 2017;15:28.  Back to cited text no. 13
    Beall J. Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers. 1 Jan 2015. Available from: https://beallslist.weebly.com/uploads/3/0/9/5/30958339/criteria-2015.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 14
    Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. 15 Jan 2018. Available from: http://wame.org/principles-of-transparency-and-best-practice-in-scholarly-publishing. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 15
    Moher D, Shamseer L, Cobey KD, Lalu MM, Galipeau J, Avey MT, et al. Stop this waste of people, animals and money. Nature 2017;549:23-5.  Back to cited text no. 16
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    Bisaccio M. Cabells’ journal whitelist and blacklist: Intelligent data for informed journal evaluations. Learn Publ 2018;31:243-8.  Back to cited text no. 18
    Kscien. Available from: http://kscien.org/predatory.php. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 19
    Think.Check.Submit. Available from: https://thinkchecksubmit.org/. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 20
    Cross J. MEDLINE, PubMed, PubMed Central, and the NLM. Editors’ Bull 2006;2:1-5.  Back to cited text no. 21
    Directory of Open Access Journals. Available from: http://doaj.org. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 22
    Web of Science Master Journal List. Available from: http://mjl.clarivate.com/. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 23
    Federal Trade Commission. Court Rules in FTC’s Favor Against Predatory Academic Publisher OMICS Group; Imposes $50.1 Million Judgment against Defendants That Made False Claims and Hid Publishing Fees. 3 April 2019. Available from: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/04/court-rules-ftcs-favor-against-predatory-academic-publisher-omics. [Last accessed on 2020 May 10].  Back to cited text no. 24


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